Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York's newspapers:


The New York Times on California

Sept. 3

People who worry about climate change have been in a state of high anxiety about President Trump's ignorance about the issue, his assault on Obama-era policies designed to do something about it and the growing evidence that extreme weather events and other consequences of global warming, long predicted by mainstream scientists, are now upon us.

Along comes California — yet again — to make people feel better about the possibility of serious action. The state is taking new steps to reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions and, in so doing, it is reaffirming its willingness to lead on a matter of global and national concern when Mr. Trump will not.

On Tuesday, the State Legislature approved a bill mandating that by 2045 all of the state's electricity come from renewable and zero carbon sources like wind, solar, hydropower and nuclear. The original goal was 50 percent renewables by 2030; this bill kicks the target up to 60 percent by 2030 en route to zero carbon by 2045.

The move is part of California's broader effort to cut economywide emissions from all sources by 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2030, and stands in luminous contrast to Mr. Trump's recent power plant proposal that would do essentially nothing to reduce emissions beyond what market forces are likely to achieve. Unlike President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan, the Trump proposal sets no performance standards, or targets, and would allow states to decide how — or even whether — to regulate climate-altering emissions from coal-burning power plants. Making his political intentions crystal clear, Mr. Trump traveled to West Virginia to highlight the plan and extol the virtues of "beautiful, clean coal."

California's action came in advance of what can be seen as another thumb in Mr. Trump's eye, the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, Sept. 12 to 14, co-hosted by California's governor, Jerry Brown, and the former New York mayor and current climate activist Michael Bloomberg. There will be three days of speeches and seminars on the roles that technology, municipalities, states and businesses can play in the fight against climate change, plus appearances by climate combat veterans like Al Gore and John Kerry. The event as a whole will provide a kind of group therapy session — as well as a reunion of sorts — for officials and activists deeply angered by Mr. Trump's refusal to hold up America's end of the bargain struck at the climate change summit in Paris in December 2015. The Obama administration promised major cuts in America's emissions, which alone account for about one-fifth of the world's total, second only to the carbon pollution coming from China.

Mr. Trump startled the world on June 1 of last year by announcing his decision to withdraw from that agreement, but within days of his announcement an astonishing assemblage of more than 1,200 governors, mayors and businesses promised in a letter titled "We Are Still In" that they would do everything they could to honor Mr. Obama's promises. The letter argued that global warming imposes real and rising costs, and that the clean energy economy to which the Paris agreement aspired offered enormous opportunities for American industry and workers. The same crowd, and these same themes, will be much in evidence in San Francisco next week.

California, obviously, is not alone in this fight. Massachusetts and other states are gearing up for a fierce legal response to Mr. Trump's dirty power plan. But California is different in several respects, including its sheer size, its long record of leading the nation on environmental protection and, not least, its robust bipartisan history of tackling climate change. It was Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, who in 2006 signed a landmark bill, known as AB 32, aimed at reducing economywide emissions from multiple sources of carbon dioxide. At the time, the administration of President George W. Bush was doing next to nothing about the problem.

The California law affected businesses and consumers across the board, requiring cleaner cars, energy-efficient buildings and alternative fuels. It was the same Governor Schwarzenegger who, four years later, beat back a coalition of oil companies and big money men, including Charles and David Koch, who tried to neuter that law with a ballot initiative. He also endorsed the most recent renewable-energy bill in a letter to legislators.

California may feel, too, a special sense of urgency, not to mention a special sense of grievance. In early August, in another big swipe at Mr. Obama's climate agenda, the Trump administration announced a rollback of part of the former president's ambitious fuel efficiency standards for automobiles. The Trump plan would not only weaken the rules but also strip California of its historic right, conferred by federal clean air laws, to set its own air quality standards. Those standards — which 13 other states have chosen to follow — led during the Obama years to a set of nationwide fuel economy benchmarks that, until Mr. Trump intervened, promised consumers years of steadily cleaner and more efficient cars. California, not surprisingly, has vowed to fight.

As if finding itself in Mr. Trump's cross hairs were not enough, California has reason right now to feel especially vulnerable to climate change itself. This year's brutal wildfires have set records for scope and financial destruction, and on Aug. 27 a new statewide assessment from the California Natural Resources Agency, based on dozens of peer-reviewed studies, promised more of the same in the decades to come. And not just more wildfires, but also rising oceans that could erode between a third and two-thirds of Southern California's shoreline, many more heat-related fatalities, billions of dollars in damages and a diminished snowpack. All will bear the fingerprints of climate change.

"In California, facts and science still matter," Governor Brown said in commenting on the report. "These findings are profoundly serious and will continue to guide us as we confront the apocalyptic threat of irreversible climate change."

The reference to facts and science was a nice little needle aimed at the White House. Where, on this issue, they don't seem to matter at all.



The Syracuse Post-Standard on Cynthia Nixon and Andrew Cuomo's debate

Aug. 31

The two candidates running for the Democratic Party nomination for governor — incumbent Andrew Cuomo and challenger Cynthia Nixon — staged their one and only debate Wednesday at Hofstra University on Long Island. They did Upstate New York voters a disservice by largely ignoring their concerns.

Cuomo and Nixon spent most of their hour sparring over problems with the New York City subways, the current occupant of the White House, whether Cuomo would run for president in 2020 and the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge (nee Tappan Zee).

Sure, the candidates addressed issues that concern voters statewide: corruption in the Cuomo administration's economic development schemes; the idea of single-payer health care; the collapse of the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference in the state Senate; the corrosive influence of campaign contributions; and State Police troopers from Upstate sent to patrol in New York City.

But they said nothing about reducing New York's high property taxes (also a problem on Long Island, by the way). Or stanching the exodus of young people from opportunity-starved Upstate cities. Or what to do about the financially struggling Upstate casinos, once touted as a source of jobs and growth. Or the wisdom of the Buffalo Billion, the DeWitt film hub or any number of high-profile projects funded by the Cuomo administration. Or the sorry state of our infrastructure and public transportation systems. Or the problems of the dairy industry. Or the future of the Adirondack Park.

Let's not be too hard on the debate's moderators from CBS New York. (Been there, done that, and it's not easy.) It's only natural they would focus on the concerns of their audience. Up to now, Nixon's campaign has focused on New York City almost exclusively; she reportedly will make a swing through Upstate in the coming days, including a meet-and-greet scheduled for Saturday in Syracuse.

Simply put, there should have been more candidate debates in different parts of the state. Voters in a state as big and diverse as New York deserve as much. Incumbents have little to gain from them, but it's their duty as candidates for public office to explain their positions and defend their actions. Perhaps we should be grateful that there was even one debate — that's one more than Cuomo did in the 2014 primary cycle — but it's not enough.

The irony is that Cuomo has a good story to tell about Upstate. This governor has paid more attention to the geographic bulk of this state than many other governors before him. He speaks often of the political imbalance between Upstate Republicans and Downstate Democrats in the state Legislature. We can debate the merits of specific projects, but the state's huge investments in Upstate cities, our parks, our brewing and wine industries and even the New York State Fair are having an impact.

Primaries are usually low-turnout affairs; fewer than 10 percent of the state's 5.8 million registered Democrats voted in the 2014 gubernatorial primary. More than half of those voters came from New York City.

If Upstate voters want candidates to pay attention to their concerns, they know what to do: Vote in the primary on Sept. 13, if you are eligible, and in the general election Nov. 6.



The Daily News on the Vision Zero campaign in New York City

Sept. 4

Vision Zero, Mayor de Blasio's signature campaign to reduce traffic deaths, has notched big victories worth lauding: a lower speed limit across the city, cameras that catch speed demons, redesigned intersections that safeguard pedestrians and cyclists. That just 216 people were killed in traffic collisions last year, an all-time low, is cause for sustained applause.

So what's the mayor's excuse for the shrinking size of the Collision Investigation Squad, charged with investigating car crashes where a crime might have occurred?

Back in 2013, before de Blasio came into office, what was then known as the Accident Investigation Squad had 26 officers; they investigated 466 crashes.

Then-Commissioner Ray Kelly, recognizing that "the term 'accident' has sometimes given the inaccurate impression or connotation that there is no fault or liability associated with a specific event," rebranded the unit and committed to ramping up its post-crash forensic work.

Five years later, under a mayor who's put safer streets front and center, the squad has just 24 officers and has investigated only 380 crashes, the New York Times finds.

Which means almost all of the 61,000 New Yorkers injured in crashes last year — more than 11,000 of them pedestrians, and nearly 5,000 of them cyclists — saw their cases pursued by patrol cops with no special forensic training, if by anyone at all.

C'mon, mayor. C'mon, police commissioner. You can do better than this.



Newsday on the economy's recovery after the Great Recession

Sept. 2

There is some cause for celebration at the Labor Day barbecue this year.

Unemployment is down and those 401(k)s are getting meatier because the stock market is up. The number of private sector jobs on Long Island rose by 1 percent over the year in July — slightly less of a jump than the state and nation at large, but still good news.

Unfortunately, recovery from the Great Recession has been uneven for too many here and nationwide. Wages have been stagnant, and even the hopeful economic numbers mask people who are underemployed, freelancing without benefits, don't have the skills needed in the digital marketplace or just gave up looking for jobs. Big companies are getting bigger through mergers, lessening the leverage of workers to switch jobs for higher pay. Meanwhile, CEO compensation has skyrocketed, increasing the income inequality gap, despite decades of increased worker productivity.

The 2017 tax bill benefits the wealthiest and will ultimately do little for everyone else. One example of how the rich get richer, the so-called carried-interest loophole, still allows hedge-funders to pay lower taxes on their profits. Strong unions have been a key bulwark of worker power in American history, one that has won workplace protections and real bargaining power. But their strength in the private sector has eroded badly and public sector unions are being weakened in the courts. It hasn't helped that a few unions have been shortsighted or distanced from the needs of their rank and file.

Without consistently rising wages, the American dream is being denied to too many. The hope to buy a home, to see children get a better education and a better life, even to retire with security, is slipping away.

The solutions to stagnant paychecks are not easy to realize. Creating opportunities must be a singular focus, and that starts with investing in human capital and formulating policies that support workers.

That would make those late-summer barbecues celebrating workers a lot more celebratory.



The Times Union of Albany on Brett Kavanaugh

Sept. 4

Hearings begin for a Supreme Court nominee even as much of his record remains hidden.

Will the Senate advise and consent, or rubber stamp?

For all appearances, Brett Kavanaugh is headed for confirmation as a Supreme Court justice. But that is no reason for Democrats to allow such a reactionary nominee to sail through without a fight — not only in the Senate, but in the court of public opinion.

Republicans have the barest majority — 51 seats — but it would be enough to assure Judge Kavanaugh the nomination.

No doubt he will do what nominees before him have done for decades — dodge questions about his thinking on legal issues, and do his best to perpetuate the fiction that he is just a faithful interpreter of the law who will not apply his personal, political and ideological views to his decisions.

Which is, of course, nonsense. There is every indication — starting with President Donald Trump's statements that he would nominate anti-abortion, pro-gun justices — that Judge Kavanaugh would engage in judicial activism, just a brand more appealing to conservatives. And there's every indication Mr. Trump chose him specifically to shield himself from being questioned or prosecuted in the scandals swirling around him.

Not that he'll admit it, much less promise to recuse himself from such matters, as he should. That means senators will likely hear the kind of platitudes and nonanswers they've come to accept over the years — that he's a "pro-law" judge, that it would be inappropriate to offer an opinion on matters that might come before the court, that he greatly respects precedent. As for his thoughts on women's rights, gun control, health care, worker and consumer rights, corporate power, campaign finance, and anything else — no comment.

Even those inclined to support Judge Kavanaugh should be concerned about how this nomination is proceeding. Hundreds of thousands of documents from his days as a White House counsel have been withheld. Hours before the hearings began Tuesday, 42,000 pages were cynically dumped on the Senate.

The one brake on unchecked one-party rule — the filibuster - — is gone, thanks to the erosion of the norms for which the Senate was once known as the world's greatest deliberative body. Republicans have weaponized their majority, first to block any consideration of even a moderate nominee from President Barack Obama, and now to railroad through President Trump's ultra-conservative picks.

The best Democrats can do is object, loudly and often, which they began doing Tuesday in demanding the hearings be adjourned until the nominee's record can be fully reviewed. They must make clear to the American people this is not merely a partisan spat, but a precedent of its own in the deterioration of a representative republic. They must make the case that due process and deliberation are essential if the Senate takes seriously its constitutional duty.

It's an argument Americans need to hear — and one they should press Republicans to heed or face a judgment of their own come November.